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ADA protects workers from discrimination over mental health

On Behalf of | Oct 19, 2018 | Workplace Discrimination |

Workers in California who have mental health difficulties could gain protection from workplace discrimination under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mental illnesses, such as PTSD, anxiety or depression, could develop in almost any person at some point. The death of a loved one, divorce or trauma resulting from military service often impact people’s mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 18.5 percent of adults cope with mental illness every year.

The stigma of mental health problems increases the likelihood of harassment occurring at work, which is why the ADA included mental illness as a protected category. Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with the ADA or expose their organizations to claims of disability discrimination if they withhold jobs from qualified applicants or fire people undergoing mental health treatment. Other forms of discrimination could include passing people over for promotion, lower pay or screening for mental illness during hiring.

An employer might help a worker navigate the challenges that are posed by his or her mental illness by offering a reasonable accommodation that improves that person’s ability to perform work duties. Adjustments like providing a quiet office space, allowing a person to work from home or granting time off for therapy appointments might allow someone to pursue treatment and maintain employment.

An individual who is being mistreated at work after receiving a diagnosis of some sort of mental illness could prepare a formal complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A lawyer who is familiar with workplace discrimination could guide a person through this process and offer insights about his or her rights and how to interact with management. Legal representation might allow someone to negotiate an appropriate resolution at work that puts an end to discriminatory practices. In some cases, a financial settlement could be appropriate if a person suffered lost pay or damage to a career.